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Building Industry Leaders to World Governments:

It’s time to Lead on Climate

October 2021 | Thought Leadership

Leading building industry groups commit to 1.5°C Paris Agreement target, and challenge governments to do the same.

More than 60 of the largest and most influential international architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, planning, and construction firms, collectively responsible for over $300 billion in annual construction, along with two dozen organizations representing over one million building industry professionals worldwide, issued a Communiqué to government leaders headed to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) challenging them to step up their emissions reduction targets for the built environment. The firms and organizations are signatories of the 1.5°C COP26 Communiqué — an open letter to sovereign governments demonstrating the firms’ and organizations’ commitment to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C carbon budget and demanding governments do the same.

According to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C — the threshold needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change — will be beyond reach. Many nations are still operating under insufficient emissions-reduction targets that put the planet in more serious danger. Recent analyses from the United Nations and Climate Action Tracker found that none of the world’s major economies — including the G20 —  have a climate plan that would meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Buildings are the largest source of the world’s carbon emissions globally and account for approximately 40% of total emissions. When accounting for the embodied carbon of building interiors, systems, and associated infrastructure, that percentage is substantially higher.

Decarbonizing the built environment is therefore essential to not exceeding the 1.5°C target.

“Those responsible for planning, designing, and constructing the global built environment are leading and transforming our sector so that it is a major part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030. “It’s long past time for governments to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions so that we don’t exceed the 1.5°C target.”

For example, in the United States, the building sector has not increased its energy consumption since 2005, even though the U.S. has added more than 50 billion square feet of buildings during that time. Today, carbon emissions in the entire U.S. building sector continue to decline each year and are currently down 30% from 2005 levels.

Government leaders from around the world will be convening for climate negotiations at COP 26 October 31 through November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. Leading up to the convening, Communiqué signatories aim to demonstrate their support and actions to eliminate carbon emissions from the built environment and embolden governments to do the same.

COP26 is our opportunity. The time is now. World governments must step up their commitments to eliminate carbon emissions from the built environment.

“The AIA is committed to advocating for energy-efficient, resilient, and zero carbon buildings in our cities, suburbs, and rural communities. It is imperative that world leaders meeting in Glasgow fully commit to adopting aggressive building policies, incentives, and codes that meet the 1.5°C carbon budget. As our nation’s leaders set ambitious targets, architects are making them a reality,” said Peter Exley, President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). 

“The 60 member firms of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable have signed the Communiqué because we want to let governments know that our profession is committed to the mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change. Accordingly, our member firms have committed to design practices that embrace the principles of 1.5°C now,” said Griff Davenport, Chair of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable and CEO of DLR Group.

“IFLA enthusiastically supports the 1.5°C COP26 Communiqué,” said Pamela Conrad, Vice Chair of the Climate Change Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA). “This is aligned with the recently launched IFLA Climate Action Commitment that represents 77 nations around the world and shows the steps landscape architects are taking as global citizens to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C.” 

The independent, non-profit organization Architecture 2030 spearheaded this unprecedented joint initiative from the world’s leading architectural, landscape architecture, engineering, planning, and construction leaders by inviting select firms and professional organizations to reach a collective commitment to decarbonize the built world by 2040, in line with the 1.5°C climate target. Signatories include (see full list below):

  • 60+ of the largest international design firms collectively responsible for over $300 billion in annual global construction 
  • Union Internationale des Architectes comprised of professional architecture organizations from 124 countries and territories, representing over one million architects worldwide
  • American Institute of Architects representing over 95,000 licensed architects in more than 200 chapters across the world 
  • International Federation of Landscape Architects representing over 70,000 landscape architects from 77 nations
  • AIA Large Firm Roundtable representing the 60 largest architecture firms in North America 
  • American Planning Association, the world’s largest planning organization representing over 40,000 members.
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers representing 57,000 members in 132 countries
  • Royal Institute of British Architects representing 44,000 members worldwide
  • China Engineering and Construction Association, Architecture Branch, representing more than 30 of China’s largest Local Design Institutes, design institutions responsible for the majority of construction in China 
  • U.S. Green Building Council with 200,000 professional members in the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia 
  • DGNB German Sustainable Building Council, Europe’s largest sustainable building network with more than 1,300 members 
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada representing over 5,000 professional members 
  • Australian Institute of Architects representing over 11,500 professional members
  • Congress for the New Urbanism representing 2,600 members worldwide

For more statements from signatories about their commitments to meet the 1.5°C climate target and the actions they are taking, visit: cop26communique.org/media.

1.5°C COP26 Communiqué Signatories:

FIRMS

  • AECOM
  • HDR
  • Stantec
  • Gensler
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Perkins&Will
  • HOK
  • Arup
  • HKS
  • RS&H, Inc.
  • SOM
  • DLR Group
  • Thornton Tomasetti
  • CallisonRTKL
  • CannonDesign
  • SmithGroup
  • Perkins Eastman
  • ZGF Architects
  • NBBJ
  • LEO A DALY
  • HGA
  • Walter P Moore
  • EwingCole
  • Flad
  • LPA
  • HMC Architects
  • Cuningham
  • HED
  • Clark Nexsen
  • Hord Coplan Macht
  • LS3P
  • KTGY
  • Cooper Carry
  • CO Architects
  • Sasaki
  • Little
  • Magnusson Klemencic Associates
  • Quinn Evans
  • Ayers Saint Gross
  • Moody Nolan, Inc.
  • Mithun
  • The Miller Hull Partnership
  • BWBR
  • FXCollaborative
  • Ennead Architects
  • Shepley Bulfinch
  • BIG
  • Payette
  • Atelier Ten
  • Autodesk
  • BNIM
  • Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Inc.
  • Buro Happold
  • DIALOG
  • Gould Evans
  • Grimshaw
  • KieranTimberlake
  • Lake|Flato Architects
  • Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
  • Mario Cucinella Architects
  • MASS Design Group
  • Reimagine Architects
  • Studio Gang
  • Turenscape
  • Waugh Thistleton Architects
  • WRNS Studio

ORGANIZATIONS

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • AIA Continental Europe
  • AIA International Region
  • AIA Large Firm Roundtable
  • AIA United Kingdom
  • ALA Assoarchitetti
  • American Planning Association
  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • ASHRAE
  • Australian Institute of Architects
  • Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
  • China Engineering & Consulting Association, Architecture Branch
  • Climate Heritage Network
  • DGNB German Sustainable Building Council
  • Global Forum on Human Settlements
  • Green Building Council of Australia
  • International Code Council
  • International Federation of Landscape Architects
  • National Institute of Building Sciences
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
  • Royal Institute of British Architects
  • The Congress for the New Urbanism
  • U.S. Green Building Council
  • UIA International Union of Architects
  • 2030 Districts Network